While the temptation to overlook damaged vehicles can be overwhelming during peak business times or when money is tight, experts say doing so can actually cost you more money in additional repairs later on.
March 2018, TruckingInfo.com – Feature
Keeping fleets looking sharp is always a challenge. But new products and materials are making doing so easier than ever. Photo: Sherwin Williams
Trucks live hard lives. Dents and dings simply go along with the job. But while the temptation to overlook damaged vehicles can be overwhelming during peak business times or when money is tight, experts say doing so can actually cost you more money in additional repairs later on — as well as hurt your company image and degrade fleet fuel efficiency.
“Not many fleet managers get excited about pulling a truck out of service to address cosmetic issues,” says James Svaasand, vice present of collision center development and operations for Penske Truck Leasing. “But at some point, most of them recognize that there is great benefit to taking care of these issues before they get out of hand.”
Svaasand is responsible for a chain of collision repair centers across the United States and Canada. He works with both OEMs and body material and paint suppliers to continuously refine the products and procedures used to keep truck exteriors in good shape.
Complicating matters is the fact that modern truck exterior design relies on advanced components and materials that were unheard of just a few years ago. Svaasand says it is not uncommon to see OEMs use proprietary composites or metals in their designs.
“Daimler, for example, uses aluminum cabs, while Navistar uses high-strength steel,” he notes. “And you also see a great deal of lightweight fiberglass body panels today. So it can be challenging for our technicians to stay on top of the latest repair procedures, because things are so specialized today.”
Rush Truck Centers also maintains a nationwide network of body repair shops. Daniel Brown, the body shop manager at Rush’s Dallas dealership location, agrees with Svaasand’s appraisal of body materials in use today. “Without a doubt, metal was much easier to work with,” he says. “Today, our technicians have to deal with composite materials, plastics and aluminum. The repair procedures are far more complex, and the overall costs have gone up as well.”
Brown says glues and (often) two-part adhesives used in body repairs today can often cost $70 to $80. “Moreover, there are no shortcuts anymore,” he adds. “Technicians have to follow the repair procedures faithfully to fix the trucks correctly. And with the cost of these materials today, we just can’t afford to have them making any mistakes. The guys we have in our shops today doing body work are truly specialists. They have to be.”
Resale values and corporate image are two major reasons Penske makes repairing body and paint damage a priority. Photo: Penske
The companies that develop and manufacture the materials used to repair truck bodies are under unrelenting pressure to stay current as well, says J.J. Wirth, brand manager, fleet segment, USCA Commercial Coatings — a division of PPG.
“One noteworthy trend in the Class 8 truck world is that fewer rivets are being used in the manufacturing process,” Wirth says. “This is a huge benefit to painters, making it much easier to get a good, final finish on paint jobs. At the same time, the structural adhesives used in repair instead of rivets are evolving daily as new production processes, materials and substrates — including plastics